This past month, I have probably had the best body image I’ve had since the beginning of college. Before I started college I ran cross country (not that I was good at it), didn’t drink at all, and didn’t eat much fast food. I’ve never been a super skinny fit person but at that point in my life I felt pretty comfortable with my body.
Then came college though. My freshman year I gained some weight for the normal reasons. The summer after that I lost about half of the weight I had gained so I came back with pretty decent body image again. Unfortunately this gaining weight during the school year and losing a little bit of it during the summer turned into a pattern. However, I noticed that as my friendships grew stronger in various friend groups I always had someone to go out with any random day and there was always someone asking if I wanted to make a taco bell run. This meant that there were a couple years where I gained back more weight than I lost during the summer. I knew I didn’t have great body image at this point but I was so distracted by all of the fun I was having and the srtess of my actual schoolwork to do anything about it.
I would have random spouts of “I need to get myself to the gym” or “I should start running”, but I never really got into a routine when it came to working out. My last semester of senior year I took a weight training class that got me into a little bit of a routine but I was going to the bars too much to have it really improve how I felt about my body. I have no shame about going out whenever I wanted, I had a ton of fun during that time. I would also never tell anyone to stop going to the bars in college unless I really thought they had a serious issue.
When I graduated I knew I would have more time to dedicate towards taking care of my body. With no homework or tests to study for, I can take time to cook and work out after I get home from the office. It has taken a little while to really get in the groove of taking care of my body, but I feel like I have made some serious steps recently. Big enough steps that my body image has been improving. The steps that have lead up to this point include cutting out wine as a stress reliever (I still go to the bars on the weekend though), not being on “the food tour of Texas” anymore, and working out regularly. I had been using the gym at my apartment a fair amount but I could have been putting in a little more effort when I went. When the gym closed to be remodeled I got that unlimited month of spin class. Since it is unlimited and only for a month I have been taking complete advantage of it without making myself miserable. I go about 4 times per week and every single time I feel like I’ve put 100 percent effort in. I’ve never really thought of myself as a sweaty person but spin class has changed that…
I haven’t been so consistent about doing a workout that I get so much out of since I did cross country. I started noticing that even though I’m not to where my long term health goal is, I have started to actually feel better about my body. Just by knowing that I was putting effort into doing something that was good for my body has been enough to make me feel more positively about it. It’s also the fact that I know I’m am working out consistently enough and eating well enough to make progress over time. I have seen a little progress already which has been beneficial to my body image too. What this has made me realize that it wasn’t simply the weight gain that made my body image worse in college, it was also that I wasn’t doing much that was beneficial to my body. I wasn’t perfect about how I treated my body in high school but I did enough to make me feel fairly positive about it.
I still go out on the weekend and I still go to restaurants with friends for special occasions but I know that I do enough positive things for my body in my day to day life that I am gradually making progress towards my health and weight goals. Being aware that you are putting effort in to taking care of your body can improve body image so much without the mirror reflecting exactly what you want it to.